The workshop will enable healthcare workers to reach out to the most vulnerable groups.
The OECS Commission has received a three-year grant for improving the status of persons living with HIV, and as part of that grant, the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation in collaboration with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has been training persons as trainers in rapid STI tests, within each of the OECS countries.
Last week, Saint Lucia hosted a four-day training workshop on rapid syphilis and rapid HIV testing at the Palm Haven Hotel. Senior Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Michelle Francois, said the workshop will train participants in testing for HIV and syphilis, in an effort to reach out to the most vulnerable groups.
“This is the second part of a two-phased training approach. The initial one was held in Trinidad in January where three team members went to get trained. In this, the second part, these team members will be assessed in their capacity to deliver the material. We’re hoping that participants will embrace this workshop. It is an attempt for us to reach the most vulnerable populations in Saint Lucia. We’re targeting pregnant women and key populations like men who have sex with men, and commercial sex workers.
Dr. Francois said the tests are less time consuming and ease the burden on the pocket.
“It definitely reduces the waiting time as opposed to having it sent to the lab where clients have to wait at least two or three days. These results they get within an hour. We’ve noted that a lot of pregnant women are unable to do the syphilis test so we’re hoping that by having it at a community level and on maternity wards, that we are able to immediately test them and not throw away any opportunities.”
Meanwhile, Valerie Wilson, Director of the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation said the rapid tests are of the utmost importance and will help reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
“The objective under the UNAIDS objective is that 90 percent of persons who are HIV infected should know their status. In order to do that it means we have to reach out to more people and persons who are at risk. Of course, people who are in key populations are particularly at risk judging by the figures we see of HIV infection within our Caribbean environment. We also know that pregnant women are exposed and need to be tested. In the case of pregnant women we can actually prevent transmission of both HIV and syphilis from mother to baby by testing these women at appropriate times and providing them with treatments so that the children are protected.”
Healthcare workers and individuals from key populations will benefit from the training. The skills and materials obtained are expected to be used in their respective fields.